As Americans tire of their stretchpants—despite marketing trying to convince them to do otherwise—denim brands are hoping to attract renewed interest. Heritage denim brand Wrangler is revising its creative strategy, with a new agency partner in pocket. Following a four-month review that concluded in February, Wrangler has appointed Yard NYC its strategic creative partner. A new campaign, designed to encourage consumers to return to more structured clothing, will debut next month ahead of the busy fall shopping season.
Wrangler is expanding globally and is increasing its investment in marketing, according to Holly Wheeler, VP of global brand marketing. The company used to work with Mother New York, an agency it tapped two years ago following its spin-off, along with sister brand Lee, from VF Corp. into its own entity called Kontoor Brands. But Wrangler wanted a new partner amid all of the pandemic-related emotional changes consumers are undergoing, Wheeler says.
“Given the environment globally with the pandemic the thought was that we needed an opportunity to revisit risk and using courage and what that looks like, and do it through a more inspirational and joyful lens,” says Wheeler. “Once you’ve acted on that courage, what’s the joy and the payoff and the reward?”
The 74-year-old brand has been seeing sales trend upward as it expands beyond its American roots to new markets in Europe and Asia. Wrangler, which wholesales in the U.S. at retailers including Nordstrom and Walmart and also operates its own direct-to-consumer ecommerce site and store, reported a 24% increase in global revenue to $311 million for the most recent quarter, compared with the year-earlier period. In the U.S., Wrangler said revenue rose 14% for the quarter due to a focus on its digital business and new product categories.
Many clothiers have been marketing below-the-waist campaigns in order to capitalize on consumers’ growing fatigue with Zoom-ready looks, as well as their need for more structured apparel amid a return to office. Jeans brand Frame recently said that some of its best-selling products are skinny jeans and other more rigid hard pant styles. And Wrangler parent Kontoor in June published a survey that found that 82% of consumers are planning to buy jeans in the next 12 months, and nearly a third of such shoppers even give a “thumbs up” to wearing denim for formal events including weddings.
Yet even with a delayed full-scale return to office life—many brands are pushing dates back due to the rise of COVID-19’s Delta variant—experts still think shoppers still want to wear jeans.
“We are seeing people ready to socially get out and feel there’s an amount of excitement around getting dressed,” says Wheeler.
The new work from Yard will be a more emotionally-driven message than Wrangler has previously pursued. The campaign will include TV, digital advertising and paid social, as well as in-store window displays.
“What we have been leaning into is the emotion of courage and that never goes out of style,” says Ruth Bernstein, CEO and co-founder of Yard. “There’s a sense of what we all needed so much courage this year and it becomes less about physical and much more about that internal emotional courage.”
Tapping into the power of internal courage and strength is a strategy that Yard has deployed successfully for other clients including Gap Inc.-owned Athleta. Such work landed the agency on Ad Age’s recently published Small Agency Award list.
Wheeler says that historically, many of Wrangler’s rivals have outspent the brand when it comes to marketing campaigns.
“It’s thinking about how we can punch above our weight and make the work smarter and more creative,” she says.